So, You Have a Retaining Wall to Plant

Natural stone landscaping in home garden with stairs and retaining walls

Have you ever planted something in what looked like fabulously rich ground, only to find a sickly-looking sample later? What happened? Why did it die? And what does this have to do with planting a retaining wall?

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4 Common DIY Landscape Project Mistakes to Avoid

Landscape architect design backyard plan for villa
Landscape architect design backyard plan for villa

There’s something to be said for do-it-yourself landscaping projects. We get to experience the whole thing time after time: the excitement of the design process; purchasing the plants and mediums; seeing the design come to life; the final mixed feelings of pride in a job well done, joy at the beautiful landscape we’ve created and sadness that the excitement is over. In short, we can understand why some people would prefer to do their own landscaping – and if this is you, more power to you!

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3 Tips for a Beautiful, Sloped Landscape

If you live in San Francisco, chances are you either have a sloped yard or know someone who does. After all, the city is well known for its hillsides and awesome views… thanks to the hillsides.

-But what if you want a garden landscape? What if you don’t want a flat landscape, but can’t think of how else you might develop your sloped backyard for a beautiful flowered view?

Thankfully, you aren’t automatically stuck with either flatlands or hard, precise, terraced walls. Although both are beautiful in their own rights, there are other options that can be done with your sloped yard to turn it into a landscaped paradise.

Gently sloping pathways

Some think that gardening on a hill is nothing but difficulty, which is one of the reasons many prefer to terrace. However, a gently sloping path that cuts across the grade (height of the slope) can go a long way to making it easier to garden the top or bottom of the hill. With an appropriately placed pathway, you don’t have to worry about falling down a hill or huffing up one.

Planting in layers

There’s more than one way to make layers in a garden. For example, planting taller plants in the background and shorter plants in the foreground allows for an added depth to your landscape. As well, carefully placed mounds of earth in which to plant low-lying plants can create additional interest, drawing the eye down the path.

Choosing complimentary colors

Plants with complimentary colors against the landscape

Choose plants with complimentary colors that don’t blend in to each other. For example, Rainbow Maiden or Pink Electric Cordyline would be striking against Hollywood Juniper, with Asparagus Fern in front. Surrounded by bright green, the deep burgundy of the Maiden and Cordyline would stand out quite well. While plants like Cape Rush and Blue Fescue are beautiful, they have a tendency to blend into each other when looked at from an angle.

In short, there’s more to sloping landscapes than creating terraces or using retaining walls to hold back the earth. These are excellent options of course, but not the end-all-be-all solution. Sloped backyards allow for unique angles from which to view your garden, as well as several places to incorporate sitting room.

In other words, don’t give up on your sloped yard just yet. If you’re looking for a way to design your garden so you can get the whole use of it, contact Tamate Landscaping. We specialize in creating the garden of your dreams, and have over 30 years’ experience to prove it. We look forward to discussing your project!

How to Choose the Right Fish for Your Japanese Koi Pond

Japanese Koi fish swimming in the pond
Japanese Koi fish swimming in the pond

Water features are a common addition to most Japanese garden designs, whether that water feature is a trickling fountain, a tiny stream, or a mini Japanese Koi pond. As one of the five elements, water represents the flowing, fluid things in nature and constant renewal. It’s part of Onmyōdō: the Yin to stone’s Yang, creating a balanced landscape.

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Landscaping for Hilly Backyards: Bernal Heights

Retaining wall with waterfall

One of the great things about San Francisco is the hills, because it allows a whole slew of people a panoramic city view. A flat street limits the view. However, it also makes hilly backyards a challenge for any landscaping project.

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Curb Appeal and Backyard Landscapes: Dogpatch, San Francisco

Mosaic cobbles, random pattern, replicate stone.
Mosaic cobbles, random pattern, replicate stone.
Mosaic cobbles, random pattern, replicate stone.

Backyards in Dogpatch have a lot of potential when it comes to curb appeal and landscaping. The mix of old warehouses, apartment buildings, and homes creates a microclimate that is perfect for certain plants and trees. Adding a few well-placed trees and bushes can create a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city.

If you have the space, you could even add a small pond or fountain. Backyard landscaping is a great way to increase your home’s value and make your outdoor space more enjoyable. With a little planning and effort, you can transform your backyard or front yard with the right curb appeal including a relaxing retreat or an oasis in the middle of the city.

Thanks to the unique microclimate in Dogpatch, you have the perfect opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind landscape. As a mixed-use neighborhood with all the hustle and bustle on the weekdays, you often can’t wait for the weekend to come and the noise to die down. But with thoughtful landscaping design, and with the help of some plants that will thrive in the steady sun, you can have a restful place even in the midst of all the crazy.

Growing That Curb Appeal: Sidewalk Landscapes

Even on Minnesota Street, where curb space for growing is at a premium, there’s room for sprucing up.  

Seaside Woolly Sunflower, for example, is a short perennial that loves sun and partial shade. It only grows about three feet tall and has a bright yellow in the spring and summer. It’s a perfect plant for sidewalks as well as butterfly and bee gardens and, since it continues to bloom year after year, you don’t have to keep replacing it.

Yarrow is another great sidewalk plant. Much like the Woolly Sunflower, it likes sun and partial shade. This perennial grows white flowers that also attract butterflies and bees. Be careful if you get this curbside decoration, however. It’s self-sowing and travels by runners; you’ll want to keep it carefully pruned.

Not to be left out, Ithuriel’s Spear should be on your potential list of sidewalk plants. Keeping in tune with the other two, it grows to the same approximate stately height of about three feet. It also does well in sun and partial shade. However, unlike the rounded petals of the Yarrow and Seaside Woolly Sunflower, Ithuriel’s Spear is a purple trumpet flower.

Into The Backyard: Small Landscapes Done Right

Of course, the plants above would fit just as well into your garden, but the larger space affords for more variety.

Kaldari Eschscholzia californica 01.jpg

We enjoy landscaping, but Japanese landscapes are our passion – which is why the California Poppy is the first on the list of garden plants. These spring and summer bloomers add a splash of bright orange and yellow color to your garden reminiscent of the flowers of Japan. In small or large batches, they catch the eyes of man, bees, birds and butterflies.

The delicate, purple Douglas Iris is another attractive addition. Blooming in spring and winter, if mixed with other perennials, will provide your garden with color all year round. If you’re planning on building a bee or butterfly garden, this is an excellent choice.

A taller, but no less beautiful plant is the Silver Lupine. This leafy plant can grow up to six feet tall at maturity and is more like a shrub than a plant if left to grow. It enjoys full sun and, in spring and summer, blooms purple flowers that remind some of lilacs in look. Birds, butterflies and hummingbirds love this plant. As an extra bonus, planting this perennial will give yet another home to the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly.

As you can see, there are plenty of possibilities throughout San Francisco and beyond. Whether you’re growing a bee garden, bird garden, butterfly garden or just a you garden, your backyard landscape can give you a peaceful place no matter what day of the week it is.

Designing Beautiful Landscapes That Last: Noe Valley, San Francisco

Noe Valley garden
Noe Valley garden

Over the past 32 years since Tamate Landscaping first opened its doors, we’ve designed and built hundreds of gardens. We’ve built Japanese gardens and koi ponds, Tiki bar-type outdoor lounge areas and backyard landscapes with sports motifs. But no matter what the design is, the size of the space or the needs of the client, the best landscapes are those with the right plants for the area. For San Francisco, “the right area” could be the next neighbor over from you, or the difference between the Mission and Dolores Heights.  

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What Does a San Francisco Landscaper Actually Do?

Asian-inspired sanctuary in Diamond Heights

Landscape professionals are like architects when it comes to creating outdoor scenery. We prove our expertise on projects that include gardens, parks, backyards, squares, and commercial properties. But what does that mean? What does a landscaper do?

Many landscapers have an excellent knowledge of plants as well and often use vegetation in creative designs. We also work with elements that include streams, stones, concrete, wood, iron, steel, and waterfalls. A true landscaping professional is an expert at creating harmonious outdoor spaces – and we’re not just saying that because we are.

In San Francisco, a landscaper may work for a design or architectural firm to create and remodel those beautiful outdoor spaces that add that extra “wow” factor to many structures and buildings. In the case of Tamate Landscaping and others, we have a stand-alone company; it’s what we do, and our only focus.

3 Common Challenges for a San Francisco Landscaper 

San Francisco is a bustling place of close communities, hills, and stressed ground. It has it’s own set of unique challenges that we have to take in to account when designing and creating a landscape.

Maintaining or Building Privacy

Creating a private place for relaxation in Noe Valley

One of the biggest challenges of creating a landscape in San Francisco is to create an environment of privacy without subtracting from the property’s overall look and feel. Do we choose shrubbery and tree options that can take years to grow, or a combination of vines and bamboo that can quickly grow to block a property’s view? Do we use wood or stone for the privacy fence, or a combination of both, such as the landscape project in Noe Valley pictured above?

Avoiding Runoff

The second challenge is figuring out ways to avoid runoff and erosion. Runoff can cause challenges with respect to water pollution and waste water. Harmful pollutants are sometimes found in runoff water; erosion is another concern. There are, of course, some areas that allow runoff due to an inability for soil to absorb water.

Avoiding Erosion

From steep hillside to terraced masterpiece

The slopes and hills of San Francisco and the Bay Area create another challenge: avoiding erosion. Drainage is often the number one factor to consider with challenging terrains. Water and rain can easily erode sand behind a wall facing a hill.

The degree of landscaping difficulty also depends on the angle of the slope. Sometimes, we can solve the slope problems with specific plants, but often a retaining wall and/ fence is used.

An additional approach to tackle hills can be to plant lawn beds as part of the overall design. Artificial turf might also be a solution. If the property allows, we’ve also created terraced levels with stone, plants, or vegetables. (plants and vegetable roots hold the soil together). To maintain the plants or flowers on the hillside, we might add stairs or an irrigation system.

Making Your Part of San Francisco’s Landscape Beautiful

In short, as landscaping professionals, we’re on a mission to help you make your part of San Francisco a paradise. Whatever that means to you, whether it’s a Zen garden, Japanese garden, backyard BBQ space or anything else, we work with you to provide it.

If you’re thinking about upgrading your relaxation space, take the time to peruse our portfolio. As you’ll see, a lot can be done with a property, no matter the size or shape. Contact us to discuss your dream San Francisco landscape!